ISLAMABAD: Wednesday saw arguments in the Supreme Court turn towards the renaming of the province formerly known as NWFP. The 17-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was hearing the case regarding challenges to the 18th amendment.
Arguing on behalf of the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), counsel Iftikhar Gillani defended the renaming of the province and insisted that ‘Pakhtun’ refers to the identity of a nation.
Responding to allegations levelled by one of the petitioners that the views of the residents of Hazara had not been considered while renaming the province, Gillani said: “The resolution for changing the name of NWFP to K-P was passed when Sardar Mehtab Ahmed Khan Abbasi, who hails from Hazara, was the chief minister and Pir Sabir Shah, who was the leader of the house, also delivered a speech in favor of Pakhtunkhwa.”
Further, said the lawyer, Hazara leader Abdul Qayyum Khan has accepted the new name and the provincial assembly has also passed a resolution after a detailed debate.
The lawyer conceded that the Supreme Court has the power to strike down amendments contrary to the basic structure of the constitution, saying the SC’s judgement in the Wukla Mahaaz case had recognised the basic structure doctrine. He also accepted that amendments made in violation of constitutionally prescribed procedures were equally liable to be struck down.
However, he argued that changing the name of the province – unlike the Objectives Resolution or the independence of the judiciary – did not militate against the basic structure of the constitution.
Here, Justice Saqib Nisar asked Gillani to explain how the people could give lawmakers the mandate to make constitutional amendments contrary to the basic structure. “A referendum can be held in the country for this purpose,” replied Gillani.
At the conclusion of Gillani’s arguments, the chief justice adjourned proceedings till Monday, which is when federation counsel Waseem Sajjad is slated to begin his arguments in defence of the 18th amendment.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2010.
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